Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quiz Announcements


Monday 10/4 - Sections 2.1 through 2.3  It will include Valid vs Invalid, the Law of Detachment and the Law of Syllogism.


Friday 10/1 - Sections 3.1 through 3.3.  Focus on your old homework.

Also, the word of the day for Algebra is "Networked".

Sticks and Stones

The following is my personal opinion, and shared here out of concern for our students.  It is not
necessarily that of WL Central HS, or Walled Lake Schools.

"Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But names
Will never hurt me."

We teach this to our children to help them cope with bullies at school when they are little.  It seems that all of us were made fun of at one time or another on the playground, and perhaps this little saying was enough to remind us that they were just words.

But, did our parents ever envision a day when these words would be heard throughout the world?  A day when with a single mouse click that teasing would be heard not by the four or five nearby kids, but by every visitor to Twitter, or Facebook?  Facebook boasts 500 million active users, which is staggering when you consider that the population of the US is 300 million, give or take a few.

The news is now reporting on a young man at Rutgers who took his life after his roommate alegedly videotaped him sharing an intimate moment, and aired the tape on the internet.  To the roommate this was a fantastic prank, a great chance to tease the man he shared a dorm room with.  I doubt that Ravi, the roommate who alegedly placed the camera, envisioned such an end to this story. 

Cyber-bullying is not new.  On occassion we even glorify it in film. It is not often this tragic.   But when it is, it reminds us that it is something we cannot ignore.  These actions have real consequences, and our students and children have access to the world in ways we could not even imagine five years ago, let alone twenty.  We are trying to stop it.  California has passed a law that will make it illegal to impersonate someone online for malicious reasons.  But there are doubts that this law will survive a challenge due to considerations of Freedom of Speech.

This is an age of the viral video, where we are all looking for the chance to make the next big splash, to push the envelope, to get our names known.  Instead of competing with a few others in a class, we are competing with the world.  How much were these two motivated by vitriol and how much of it was a naive pursuit of fame at being the ones to post this video?

I have no answers, only more and more questions.  I am left watching my 2 year old play with his dinosaurs and wonder what the world will be like for him.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

BA Grades Posted

Geometry's Chapter 1 and Algebra's Chap 2 BA's are posted to Skyward (mostly). If you have questions about the two grades, I have a page posted here explaining how they are figured.

Talk About Algebra: Facebook

According to the Austin News, Facebook made around $800,000,000 in advertising revenue. Personally I hate Facebook Ads. With the passion of 100 burning stars. So here's a question we kicked around in class:

Facebook makes $800,000,000 in advertising. Suppose they offer to have Facebook free of ads for $100 per user. How many people would have to sign up for the Ad-free version to make this a good business offering? Write an inequality, solve and graph.

Remember an Inequality is a case of "x < 10" or "300 + y > 600".

A great way to engage your student would be to bring this problem and not only talk about the actual math, but also why the idea of a good business offering requires it to be one value "Greater than" the other.

Week's Schedule

This week is a unique week in that we have all 6 classes every day because of student count day today. Here's our plan:

From Monday through Friday we'll be covering Sections 2.1-2.4 in our text. These introduce basic logic, valid arguments and biconditionals. There will be a quiz on Friday covering sections 1, 2 and 3 so students should be working to stay on top of these new concepts.

This week we're going to tackle sections 3.1 through 3.4 which seems like a lot, but in essense is a review of what we were doing in chapter 2. For students who had a hard time with solving multi-step equations in chapter 2, this is a chance to show off that they are starting to get the hang of it now in Chapter 3. Like Geometry, there will be a quiz on Friday covering the week's content.

Upcoming Tests:
Geometry: Tuesday (block A) 10/11
Algebra: Monday (6/61) 10/10
These dates are tentative but I feel confident we can hit them.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Off Topic: Friday Fun

As a teacher lots of Fun stuff comes across my desk, stuff that has nothing to do with the course, nothing to do with Mathematics, but I find too fun not to share.  Since this is generally class related blog I don't want to clog it up with lots of that off topic fun.  So I'll be saving these gems for Fridays.

Today's Friday Fun is a video for the song "Let it Go" by OKGo in honor of Homecoming and our Viking Marching Band.

WIN Policy Posted

To clarify our school WIN policies and how I use them in my classroom I wrote a page discussing it.  This is my policy unless something should change on a building level.

Read about it here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Inductive vs Deductive Reasoning

This is a killer concept to keep straight.

In logic there are two ways we teach to reach a conclusion:  Inductively and Deductively.

Let me try an example to make the case between them.

Two people are debating about who the murderer is in a mystery novel.  The first one says, "I think the butler did it because the murder was done by someone left handed and he was the only left handed character."  He used logical principles to make an argument and reached a conclusion.  The second person reading the novel says, "I think the butler did it because it's always the butler."  He's reaching a conclusion by applying his knowledge of basic trends and patterns.

Realistically we tend mix these, using our past experiences (inductive) as the basis for a logical argument (deductive).

This is the kind of thing that can create lot of good dialogue at home about something very fundamental to our second BA test in Geometry.

Also posting similar examples in the comments here can earn students Brownie Points, if those examples do indeed illustrate cases of Inductive vs Deductive reasoning.

Notebooks are Due

As a reminder I am checking notebooks during our BA tests this week.  Students should have clearly marked notes, examples worked out, and have them well organized for easy review.  I will be scoring several areas out of 5 points to help provide feedback.  The notebook overall will be graded out of 10 points.

Students are advised that handing in a blank notebook will not earn them points.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brownie Points Explained

I have added another page explaining Brownie Points which are my semi-extra credit.  Read about them Here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Test Prep

EDITED:  See additional notes at the bottom of the post

In all classes we have a BA Test on the last class day this week.  On these days I will also be checking notebooks.  These will be graded on completeness, organization, and use-ability. 

My biggest concern right now is preparing for this test.  There is always a lot pressure tied to BA tests as the BA test category is weighted as 50% of the overall grade.  Students cannot, generally, afford to do poorly on them.  However, coming in and hoping to do the "best job evah!" is rarely a good strategy and that kind of pressure can yield poor results.

So here are some tips to consider as you work with your student to prepare for this test:

1)  Have a relatively distraction-free place for some of the work.

Yes, many students do better working with some kind of distraction in the background.  I know I have a very hard time staying focused in a silent room, myself.  However some time should be spent working without music, without Facebook, and without the TV going.  The test room will be nearly silent during the test time; the study space should be the same as well.

Research has shown that the closer the preparation space is to the test environment, the better students do.  This should, however, be tempered with the realities.  If demanding the house be quiet leads to a sullen and unproductive teen, then perhaps a little music is worth the compromise to get the book cracked open.

2)  Review classnotes and previous quizes.

Every problem on the BA has been previewed as of my lessons, in the homework assignments or on the quiz.  I make it a goal to have no student walk out of a test saying they were "surprised" by the content.  For this reason I strongly encourage students to invest the time to review their work, redo problems and check over our discussions.

3)  Look up the answers in the book.

Most of the review material has problems with solutions in the back of the text.  For every practice problem they do, they can also check to see if they got it right.  Often by working the problem backwards they can find the point where they made a mistake in their work.

4)  Commit to better habits.

As we prepare for the exam, students will see things they can do better next chapter.  Perhaps it is a matter of taking better class notes, or a matter of asking for a new seat in the room.  Students may consider making regular study groups, or plan a common day afterschool to get assistance.  Challenge your student to commit to one improvement over the next chapter. 

Students who bring this commitment to improvement, in writing, on the day of the test will receive some Brownie Points (which are good for homework extensions as needed) as a reward.  Those daring may also publically post their commitment in the comments below.


I'd like to clarify the commitment.  What I am looking for from students is a plan to a single specific action to help improvement over the next chapter.  This can include, for example, raising your hand at least once a class period, making sure that every problem is tried for a minimum of 5 minutes, or meeting once a week with me or another tutor to review work.  The commitment should be specific, do-able, and likely to help your grade.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Schedule for the week

Forth both classes here is what to expect this week:

Monday (PLC):  Begin 1.6
Tuesday (6/60) : Finish 1.6, recieve review guide
Block 1:  Review chapter 1
Block 2:  Chapter 1 BA Test

Monday(PLC):  Begin 2.5
Tuesday (6/60):  Finish 2.5, recieve review guide
Block 1:  Review Chapter 2
Block 2:  Chapter 2 BA test

I will be available on Wednesday after school to meet with students who need help preparing for the exam.  Also students who are concerned about the exam have the option of getting it out of the way on Thursday afterschool.  I will also be around for assistance then as well.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Heroes (not the show)

A student asked to interview me for an English Class project.  Happy to help I said "Sure" and then was stumped by her question:  Who is my hero and why?

My gut reaction was to say what many teachers do:  Jaime Escalante, whose exploits were featured in the film Stand and Deliever.  As an asside I had a chance to meet Edward James Olmos who played Escalante in the film.  When I told him I was a teacher and I regularly watched that movie each fall to help get my mind in the right place, he stood up and said to me, "I want to shake your hand.  You do the real work."

My next thought was to my friends, family and former students in the services, Capt Green in the USCG, Capt's Garner, Garner and Hichika in the USMC, Randal and Moseby in the USAF and Tobias in the Army(whose ranks I do not know), and countless others whose names or branches I can't recall.    Those are every day heroes.

While at Dragon Con last year I was wearing a costume from the new GI Joe movie when someone came up to me with a sign:  "Heroes Donate Blood".  So I went, rolled up my camo'd sleeve and gave my pint.  I also did not throw up, nor did I feint.  My wife however took 10 minutes less time and was able to walk out when she was done whereas I was sitting there for a good while with an ice pack.  How does this relate to GI Joe?  Well, wasn't he a "Real American Hero"?

If I had to nail it down to a single person though....

Alan J Osterman

Yeah, my dad.  He put two kids through college while working 30 years at Chrysler.    He's the model family man, the kind that you never see on TV because anyone watching would say "that's not real; no one is that loyal, that kind, or that loving."  He almost never yelled.  He didn't need to; just saying he was "disappointed" was enough to send my sister or I into quivering tears of regret and contrition.   He helped take care of his own father  and step mother who lived in Florida while we were up here in Michigan, making regular trips with his brothers to help support them. He's a playful grandfather and still a loving husband.

If I can become half the man he is, I will consider myself blessed.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Quizzes tomorrow

There are quizzes in all 5 classes tomorrow.  Algebra will be quizzing on sections 2.1 through 2.4 including story problems.  Geometry will be mostly vocab focusing on sections 1.1 through 1.4.  Students may come for help/ studying during SRT provided that they are there to ~work~.  Those socializing will be sent back to their SRT teachers.

Also, students should note that the words for the day tomorrow will be "Bazinga" if your last name starts with A through M and "Monopole" if it starts with an N through Z.

Photo:  CBS Television

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Quizes and Music Policy


There are quizzes in both Algebra and Geometry on Friday.  In Geometry it will cover sections 1.1-1.4, so topics to think about include Segment Addition, Bisectors, Angle Pairs, Supplmentary and Complementary Angles and Angle Addition. In Algebra it will include sections 2.1-2.4, so the hardest problem will include paranethesis as well as the variable on both sides of the equal sign.

Also, there is one iPod in operation in the classroom:  Mine.  All other electronics are to be turned off during the class period per school rules.  I am happy to queue up music for students to listen to while they work, and even look for requests on iTunes.  Students should, however, be mostly caught up before they expect their favorite band to make it into the rotation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Spurring Conversation

In Geometry we talked about Adjacent Angles (any two angles that share a common side) and about Linear Pairs (adjacent angles that also add up to 180 degrees).  Thus we could say "All Linear Pairs are also Adjacent Angles, but not all adjacent angles are linear pairs."

If you want to talk to your student about this, try to think of other cases where one group is a subgroup of another group, so that similar statements can be made.  For example:

"If someone is a football player then they are an athlete, but not all athletes play football."

"A 69 Mustang is a muscle car.  I drive a muscle car but it's not a 69 Mustang."

This kind of concept is going to be central to our discussion of logic in chapter 2.

Also for every such pairing shared in the comments section of this post, your student can earn a brownie point in class. (1 point per student).

Quiz Redo Policy

Quizzes are intended to be both formative (helping students form their understanding) and summative (represent a summary of their knowledge).  To assist in the former, students my "redo" any problems they missed on a given quiz.  This means for each problem they miss on the quiz they need to answer the following on a seperate piece of paper:

a)  What is the corrrect answer?
b)  Why is it the right answer?  Generally this means showing the work required to get that solution, or it means providing a 1-2 sentence explanation.
c)  Why did they get it wrong?  In one or two sentences explain what their misunderstanding was, and how they intend to avoid that mistake in the future.

I consider the last question one of the most important because it forces students to look critically at their work, and how they can improve it over time.  And because we all make silly mistakes from time to time, students may once per redo answer the final question with "I just plain screwed up".  Sometimes it happens and there is no good explanation for why make a given mistake (for some reason Vanilla Ice comes to mind).

These are due to me no later than the chapter Benchmark Assessment for that quiz's chapter.  In other words, the Chapter 1 Quiz redo's are due no later than next Thursday 9/23.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is Homework Graded on?

This is a common question early in the year, especially as I'm working out what kinds of assignments students can handle for their grade level, and knowledge base.

Here is a short list of "Do Not's" to help illustrate the Do's.

  • I do not grade on correct-ness.
  • I do not grade every problem.
  • I do not accept late work (except when there are mitigating circumstances).
  • I do not accept homework without work shown.

What I do do:
  • I review the overall assignment with each student, and ask where we should focus our review.
  • I look for honest effort on every problem of the assignment.  Honest Effort may include sketching the problem, copying the equation and leaving space for work, or making notes of what was confusing.
  • I review as many problems as possible in class with everyone to help people see where their individual mistakse are.
  • I expect students to take ownership of the review process, to check their own work, and to make notes as needed.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quizzes Next Week

As a reminder to all classes:

Monday 9/13:  Geometry Quiz over the Summer Assignment.

Friday 9/17:  Geometry Quiz Sections 1.1 through 1.4

Second Block Day (Wednesday 9/15 or Thursday 9/16):  Algebra Quiz Sections 2.1-2.4

All classes have short assignments this weekend (check Skyward).

Our First BA of the year is week after next.   Geometry's on Block 2 (Wednesday 9/22 or Thursday 9/23) and Algebra's on Friday 9/24.


Upon reflection I'm moving our first Quiz in Algebra to Friday 9/17 for all 3 Algebras.  This is to give us 2 solid block days to review the content in 2.3 and 2.4 to be sure it's all there and all in place.  I'm not interested in rushing this but at the same time our BA on Chapter 2 is still going to be on Friday 9/24.

This has been updated in Skyward

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Homework 9/8

I wanted to write a short post to remind students that out of respect for the holiday Rosh Hashanah there is no homework due on Friday 9/10.  Students are expected to come to class ready to continue lessons from Wednesday 9/8 and all asignments are Due, Completed with Work Shown and Answers Checked (in the case of Algebra) on Monday 9/13.

For those celebrating, enjoy your holiday and best wishes to your family.

Ask About Geometry

If you want to spur conversation with your student in Geometry, you might ask them what the Declaration of Independence has to do with the vocabulary we're studying in Geometry.
Photo credit:  Public Domain

Ask About Algebra

If you'd like to spur a conversation with your student about Algebra you might ask them what Onions, Ogres and Algebra Problems have in common.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

History and Math Converge

Being the first day of school I hestitated to post something not directly related to my curriculum but as they showed the final scenes of this mini-series I felt I had to share this with parents, staff and students.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett tells the story of the building of the fictious Kingsbridge Cathedral in 12th Century England.  This was made in miniseries by the CBC and presented recently on the Starz Network.  At this same time, it is also available as a streaming on demand for Netflix members (which is how we have been following it as we do not subscribe to Starz.)  It is already slated for DVD release and can be preordered on Amazon.

I mention it here because it is a story of construction using tools of simple measuring, balance, and carving.  The Salsibury Cathedral on which the fictional Kingsbridge is based stands today still a testiment to vision of its masons, laborers and masons.  In the film several times the tools of the trade are shown and one pivotal scene holds the following dialogue:

Master Builder pointing at a book of Geometric figures:  Do you know Euclid?
Jack:  No... no I don't.
Master Builder slamming the book shut:  Then you know NOTHING.

Overall it is a historical piece showing bloody battles in the wars of succession between Maude and Stephen and using this as a back drop to the steady and methodical construction of the cathedral and all the politics attached to it.  I cannot recommend the book myself as I have not read it, and my wife cautions that there are some graphic scenes involving adult content.

However, if you are a fan of history and can get past the need for lots of sword swinging, the story is incredibly engaging.  The references to geometry as a core skill for master builder are important to the plot and add a deeper appreciation for the work of men (and women) in a time when simply being able to read was considered the greatest of luxuries.  That it still stands today as strong as when it was built strikes me as both awe inspiring and profoundly humbling.

Photo by Andrew Dun

Photo By Theophill Arthur

First Day Down


We've got our first day done and here are some thoughts to update everyone on where we are and where we're going:


I got to see most of the packets from the summer and grade them.  If your grade isn't posted yet it is because I haven't seen it but I will tomorrow.  Bring your packets to class again.

There is a quiz on Monday next week which will review the contents of the packets and our first scheduled BA is on 9/22.  That date might slide back to Friday 9/24.


Tomorrow we'll be starting chapter 2 in our text.  Welcome to Algebra!

Overall it was a good day and I'm very excited about starting this school year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to the new school year.  Already things are rolling forward and setting us up for a great school year.  Here are some things to think about as that start of classes date lumbers forward:
  • Students are expected to have a notebook.  This notebook will be checked peroidically for a grade to verify that it is legible and up-to-date.
  • I do not require a calculator but I strongly advise students to have a basic 5 function calculator for either class (that is Add, Subtract, Multiply, Divide, Square Root).  They can be found for a dollar at the Dollar Store.
  • I will not be updating my website but I will be updating this blog.  Check here for information.  The website will continue to link here.
  • If you need an assignment check in Skyward.  Most worksheets will be posted as attachments to assignments there.
Here's a great school year!